Richmond’s population of older adults — those aged 55 and over — is the fastest growing segment of our community. About a quarter of our residents currently fit into the 55-plus age group. Over the next few decades, that number is expected to grow to 45 per cent or about 100,000 people.
The older adult population is not only growing, it is evolving. Richmond residents are living much longer. In fact, our average lifespan, at more than 85 years, is the longest in Canada. Those longer lifespans mean we’re also seeing a much broader diversity in the needs, interests and health of our older adults, including a population that is generally more physically active than in the past. Finally, the changing cultural demographic of Richmond also means our older adults are more ethnically diverse as well.
Council is very mindful of the significant changes occurring among Richmond’s older adult community. As the population ages and evolves, the city will be increasingly challenged to ensure Richmond is an age-friendly community. Our aim is to ensure that Richmond continues to meet the diverse and particular needs of older residents in such areas as housing, accessibility, recreation opportunities, community services and programs.
We’ve already made a good start on addressing the needs of our older adults. Richmond has a solid array of programs for older adults across the city. We continue to work closely with our Seniors Advisory Committee, Minoru Seniors Society and other groups to identify, develop and offer new programs. We recently broke ground to begin construction of a new multi-purpose complex in Minoru Park, which will include a new, expanded older adults centre. The new centre will have about double the programmable space for older adults than is currently available at Minoru Place. As chair of the Technical Advisory Committee for this project, I know council and staff are committed to working together with our stakeholders to ensure we meet community needs when the new complex opens in 2017.
The City has also initiated an update to its Older Adult Service Plan to ensure we adequately address all current and future community needs. The city’s current Older Adults Service Plan dates back to 2008. While it has served us well, it is time to update this plan. We want to hear from older adults, those who care for them, and other stakeholders on how we can continue to support older adults in Richmond. As council liaison for the Minoru Seniors Society, I’ve heard lots of discussion and input on the needs of our older adults and I am looking forward to seeing the outcome of this new process.
To kick-start our update of the plan, the city has launched a stakeholder and public engagement process, and you are invited to have your say. We recently completed a series of focus groups with local seniors to hear their thoughts. A public forum and survey is available at LetsTalkRichmond.ca/seniors. Or, call 604-247-4682 to have a paper copy of the survey sent to you.
In particular, we want to hear which City programs and services for older adults have made an impact over the past six years; what changes or additions to existing programs and services need to be made; what are Richmond’s age-friendly assets, and what barriers might still exist. The process is also designed to raise awareness of our existing services so our older residents can take full advantage of those opportunities.
Find out more about our older adults services and learn how you can contribute to the process of updating our service plan by visiting richmond.ca/seniors. I encourage everyone to take part to ensure Richmond truly is an age-friendly city.